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Posts Tagged ‘Strand Of Oaks’

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

Breaks In The Armor

Crooked Fingers and Strand Of Oaks at The Drake Underground in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangSo, let’s see. Crooked Fingers were just here back in July – yeah, covered that. Oh, but in the interim, they also released a new album in Breaks In The Armor; covered that too. So was there really anything new to report out of Tuesday night’s show at the Drake Underground? Actually, yes.

To begin with there was opener Strand Of Oaks, who definitely merit discussion. I’d been familiar with the project of Pennsylvania singer-songwriter Tim Showalter for a little while – his 2010 album Pope Killdragon coming highly recommended from a number of directions – but hadn’t caught him live on any of his previous visits to Toronto. And I almost didn’t catch this one as he started his set at least 15 minutes earlier than had been scheduled, but walking into the Underground to the sounds of Showalter and his two bandmates weaving some mesmerizing space-folk, I was extra thankful that traffic had been light.

Pope Killdragon was an impressive work – lyrically rich and emotionally resonant – but despite pushing beyond the voice-and-guitar template, was a pretty stark-sounding affair. Live, with two guitars, a bass and a small army of technology at their respective toes and fingers for triggering and controlling a multitude of backing tracks, it was a much richer and haunting sonic experience with the songs being lifted up on a bed of echoes and swells. I’ve heard some comparisons made between Strand Of Oaks and Bon Iver; they’re fair, though with less falsetto and vocoder. If you dig what Justin Vernon does, do yourself a favour and investigate Strand Of Oaks. And if you don’t, well, check them out anyways.

July’s Crooked Fingers felt special in the way that performances that take place outside the regular touring cycle for an album often do; more experimenting, more deep cuts, more unpredictability. What with the band consisting solely of Eric Bachmann and Liz Durrett at that point, it was necessarily simpler in arrangement but still a stirring showcase for Bachmann’s career so far. This time out they were formally touring in support of Breaks and added a rhythm section for the occasion but rather than show off benefits of the extra hands right off, Bachmann stepped offstage as soon as he got there and into the audience to open with a gorgeous, unamplified “Man O’ War”. Plugging in, the band would showcase much of the new record alongside selections from the entirety of the Crooked Fingers catalog, all tweaked and subtly adjusted to sit perfectly alongside each other despite the broad stylistic shifts between the albums from whence they came.

As memorable as the last show was, it was great to have the muscle of the rhythm section overtop the skeleton presented in the Summer this time out. Besides the obvious extra infusion of energy, the songs were able to loosen up and breathe more and Bachmann given the freedom to rock out more on guitar where he saw fit. The additional personnel also allowed them to explore more complex arrangements of songs – sure, it would/could have been simpler to arrange everything for two guitars, bass and drums and it probably would have sounded great, but you have to appreciate the creative choices such as Durrett’s more felt than heard keyboard contributions or the way that Bachmann started “The Counterfeiter” instrumentless and then jumped onto keyboards for the last verse while the bass carried the chords. Sure, that’s how it goes down on Armor, arrangements-wise, but watching it done live gives you a new appreciation for it all.

Just as they did mid-set in July, Bachmann and Durrett led off the encore with an intimate, unamplified “Your Control” and proved that there was an upside to a band as great as this playing criminally undersized rooms. On the other hand, the unscheduled guest appearance of a mouse running across the floor during “Lonesome Warrior” reminded that there’s something to be said for playing nicer venues as well. To close, Bachmann acquiesced to an earlier request and made the requisite Archers Of Loaf song in the set a beautiful “Chumming The Ocean”, a song I’d not heard before but won’t soon forget. It’s been a recurring theme through this year, what with the return of Archers Of Loaf and the new Crooked Fingers record, but man. Eric Bachmann. He should be on postage stamps.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel has an interview with Eric Bachmann.

Photos: Crooked Fingers, Strand Of Oaks @ The Drake Underground – November 8, 2011
MP3: Crooked Fingers – “Typhoon”
MP3: Crooked Fingers – “Phony Revolutions”
MP3: Crooked Fingers – “Angelina”
MP3: Crooked Fingers – “Big Darkness”
MP3: Crooked Fingers – “Devil’s Train”
MP3: Crooked Fingers – “When You Were Mine”
MP3: Crooked Fingers – “New Drink For The Old Drunk”
MP3: Eric Bachmann – “Carrboro Woman”
MP3: Eric Bachmann – “Lonesome Warrior”
MP3: Strand Of Oaks – “Bonfire”
MP3: Strand Of Oaks – “End In Flames”
Video: Crooked Fingers – “Let’s Not Pretend (To Be New Men)”
Video: Crooked Fingers – “New Drink For The Old Drunk”
Video: Eric Bachmann – “Man ‘O War”
Video: Eric Bachmann – “Lonesome Warrior”
Video: Strand Of Oaks – “Last To Swim”

Tom Waits has released a video from his new record Bad As Me.

Video: Tom Waits – “Satisfied”

The Quietus has a final interview with Michael Stipe of R.E.M., whose career-capping/ending compilation Part Lies Part Heart Part Truth Part Garbage 1982-2011 is out next week. You can stream it in whole right now at NPR, including the two of three final new songs from the band. Over at Under The Radar, actress Kirsten Dunst explains how the screen test-like video for their last single, “We All Go Back To Where We Belong”, came about.

Stream: R.E.M. / Part Lies Part Heart Part Truth Part Garbage – 1982-2011

Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy tells The Sun that they have a sense of humour. Because putting a camel in a party hat on their last album cover didn’t make that clear.

NPR has a World Cafe session with Ryan Adams. He plays the Winter Garden Theatre on December 10.

The Mountain Goats have given away a free unreleased track, just because.

MP3: The Mountain Goats – “Thucydides II:58”

Colin Meloy of The Decemberists and sister Maile talk to Salon about the benefits of a creative childhood.

Hold Steady frontman Craig Finn will release his solo debut, Clear Heart Full Eyes on January 24. Details at Tiny Mix Tapes.

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

Boom

Wild Flag is pretty effin’ wild

Photo By John ClarkJohn ClarkEven before anyone heard a note, there was little doubt that Wild Flag would be fantastic. With two-thirds of Sleater-Kinney in Janet Weiss and Carrie Brownstein, Mary Timony of Helium and Rebecca Cole of The Minders, they had about as unimpeachable a pedigree as any band really could. And yet, as history has shown many times, a lot of things look good on paper but don’t live up to expectations in reality. Wild Flag is not one of those things.

I was able to confirm their collective awesomeness at SXSW where their mid-afternoon set was a glorious flurry of duelling guitar solos, scissor kicks and general rock’n’roll fun, and even though pretty much every song was being heard for the first time, they were memorable and considerably more immediate and accessible than either much of Sleater-Kinney’s output and most of Helium’s ever was.

But hell, don’t take my word for it. A couple weeks ahead of the September 13 release of their self-titled debut, the entire album is now available to stream in its entirety at NPR. That, incidentally, is where Brownstein worked as a blogger for years following SK’s hiatus. Considering her focus on writing as well as comedy and acting in the last five years in lieu of music and the fact that Timony hasn’t put anything out since 2007’s The Shapes We Make, it’s no wonder that they collectively had so much rock pent up inside. Rock that they’ve now gifted to us. Fire it up, yo.

They toured through the Spring, but the Fall leg will finally bring them to Toronto for a show at Lee’s Palace on October 12… and alas I won’t be there. But don’t feel bad for me (not that you necessarily would) – I saw them at SXSW and I’ll be in Iceland at the time so… yeah, I’ll be okay. But if you’re here or in one of the other cities on the itinerary, don’t miss them.

MP3: Wild Flag – “Romance”
MP3: Wild Flag – “Glass Tambourine”
Stream: Wild Flag / Wild Flag

Phantoms, the long-awaited new album from Austin’s Ume, is out today and available to stream in whole over at Spinner. There’s also a streamable radio session with the band over at KDHX and an interview with frontwoman Lauren Larson at The Horn.

MP3: Ume – “Captive”
Stream: Ume / Phantoms

Billboard talks to Zach Condon of Beirut; The Rip Tide.

Stereogum checks in with Mates Of State about their new record Mountaintops, out September 13. They’re at The Phoenix on September 28.

The Drums’ new record Portamento is now up and streaming; the record is out September 13 and they play The Mod Club on October 1.

Stream: The Drums / Portamento

Paste has a stream of Blitzen Trapper’s new long-player American Goldwing, also due out September 13, as well as a new video. They play The Opera House on October 30.

MP3: Blitzen Trapper – “Love The Way You Walk Away”
MP3: Blitzen Trapper – “American Goldwing”
Video: Blitzen Trapper – “Love The Way You Walk Away”
Stream: Blitzen Trapper / American Goldwing

NPR has premiered the first new Olivia Tremor Control song in nigh on a decade and has an interview with Will Cullen Hart. The OTC reunion hits Lee’s Palace on September 16.

Stereogum is sharing an MP3 from the new Ivy album All Hours, out September 20.

The Guardian has a feature piece on Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs, in town at Lee’s Palace on September 24.

Check out another track from the new Dum Dum Girls record Only In Dreams, due out September 27. They play Lee’s on October 16.

MP3: Dum Dum Girls – “Bedroom Eyes”

Babelgum is hosting a US edition of Black Cab Sessions with Strand Of Oaks, who will be at The Drake Underground on November 8 opening up for Crooked Fingers.

Though best known as a country-noir crooner outfit, thanks to her recent dalliances with Sunn O))) Jesse Sykes of Jesse Sykes & The Sweet Hereafter has got some prog-metal cred. We’ll see if any of that has rubbed off on their latest Marble Son when they’re here on November 10 for a show at The Drake before hitting the road with The Sadies. There’s features on Sykes at Seattle Weekly and Willamette Week and you can stream a recent radio session at KEXP.

MP3: Jesse Sykes & The Sweet Hereafter – “Come To Mary”

Confirming that it is, indeed, time to get paid, Jeff Mangum has launched a new, official Neutral Milk Hotel website and will be releasing an elaborate vinyl-only box set including unreleased Neutral Milk material on November 22. Head over to Pitchfork for details and spend some time poking around walkingwallofwords.com as Mangum has loaded it down with content.

DIY has an interview with Dayve Hawk of Memory Tapes.

The Daily Star talks to Nikolai Fraiture of The Strokes.

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

Ghost

Jeff Mangum and Andrew, Scott & Laura at Trinity-St. Paul’s in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangIf we’re being completely honest, there’s a not-insubstantial part of me that wishes that this past weekend’s shows by Neutral Milk Hotel bandleader Jeff Mangum at Trinity-St. Paul’s had never happened. There was just something poetic about the disappearing act he pulled following In The Aeroplane Over The Sea, as though the album-closing sounds of the guitar being set down, chair being pushed back and footsteps into the distance was of him leaving this plane and taking his rightful place in some cosmic musical pantheon, having created one of the more perfect records of recent memory.

Of course, I suspect it’s over-romanticized shit like that that’s exactly why Mangum has finally emerged from seclusion. In the thirteen years since he disbanded Neutral Milk Hotel, his story has taken on mythic proportions as a new generation of the indie-inclined discover his masterpiece but can find no trace of its auteur – just field recordings of Bulgarian folk music, sound collages, very occasional guest appearances on the records of his Elephant 6 compatriots and rumours. So many rumours. Even if Mangum wanted to make a return to recording, releasing and performing music, surely the weight of expectation that would surround whatever came next would be unbearable.

So may as well just get it over with. Mangum sightings haven’t been unheard of in recent years, but a surprise Brooklyn loft show last December had the scent of something more than just a one-off; it felt more like carefully laying the groundwork for something bigger and within months, a relatively full-scale comeback was in place – both playing and curating some ATP Festival shows in the UK and US and headlining a number of east coast dates from the late Summer through the Fall. When the Toronto shows were announced, I theorized that this was Mangum’s effort to deconstruct the mythology around himself, to remind people that he was just a guy with a guitar and some songs and maybe, just maybe, not all that big a deal.

If that was the intent, mind you, maybe booking two nights in a church wasn’t the best way to make the point. For the Friday night show, the lineups began just after noon and by the time doors opened, stretched around more than a couple city blocks. And after all were admitted and dutifully took their places in the pews, it would still be an extended wait in the sweltering chapel before the show got underway. For support, Mangum brought along some old friends performing as Scott, Andrew & Laura – as in Scott Spillane of The Gerbils and Andrew Reiger and Laura Carter of Elf Power; certainly not household names but well-appreciated by those who knew them. Their set saw them trading off instruments and playing selections from their respective repertoires, striking a typically Elephant 6 balance of musical proficiency and primitivism but it was impossible to not be impressed by their final song, a Gerbils composition which had Spillane bellowing mournfully while Carter played trumpet unamplified into the church ceiling.

Just how reclusive has Jeff Mangum been? So much so that between sets, when a lanky figure in a light checked shirt and long brown hair tucked under a pageboy cap strode out on stage to check the four guitars set up around a chair, hardly anyone noticed that this was the man that they’d been waiting for months to years to forever in breathless anticipation to see live. They noticed when he came out the second time though – the dimmed lights must have helped – and he was welcomed back to Toronto, to the stage, with huge applause. And with the first strummed chords of “Oh Comely”, it began.

Jeff Mangum is often held up as the archetype for nasally-voiced indie-folk singers, but my first impression of hearing him in person was just how refined and powerful that voice was; Neutral Milk may have favoured a lo-fi, ramshackle aesthetic for their recordings but it certainly wasn’t to cover up the vocals. Of course, with this being a Mangum solo show and not a Neutral Milk reunion, that aesthetic was shelved anyways as the only flourishes on the voice and acoustic guitar configuration came courtesy of Spillane and Carter, who stepped up to add some crucial horn and clarinet parts to songs like “In The Aeroplane Over The Sea” and “Ghost”. But for the most part, it was just Mangum and the rapt silence of his audience – a silence that burst into huge ovations when each and every song ended, as though they’d just witnessed the greatest thing ever and really, who’s to say they hadn’t?

Between songs, Mangum certainly didn’t come off like a recluse or eccentric, coming off chatty and friendly; at one point he asked, “Are you guys happy?” to an overwhelmingly positive response before having that question returned to him (he said he was). Also in the far-from-precious department, his requests – nay, demands – that the house sing along with him – further proof that he didn’t want our reverence, he wanted us to celebrate with him. There may not have been as much sincerity behind a full house singing “I love you Jesus Christ” as there would be when Trinity was actually serving as a conventional house of worship, but there was no denying that there was some genuine transfiguration occurring – or more accurately, a reverse-transfiguration with a musical demigod happily becoming just a man.

Though he apparently confirmed on Saturday night that he had been writing, no new songs were introduced. The hour-long set including one-song “Engine” encore encompassed selections from both Neutral Milk albums – though curiously no “Two-Headed Boy, Part One” on either night – and a cover of Daniel Johnston’s “True Love Will Find You In The End” wrought so lovely that I almost believed it could be true. But considering I’d just see Jeff Mangum perform live, I think one wish fulfilled on the evening was plenty.

NOW, Spin and The National Post was also on hand Friday while The Grid, The Globe & Mail and Exclaim have writeups of the very-similar Saturday night show; Southern Souls has also some audio from Saturday. And oh, there was no photography permitted at the show hence my sketch of the artist gracing the top of this post; it’s been a long time since I’ve drawn, and in that time I clearly forgot that a) I need light to draw, b) an eraser can be a handy tool and c) I was never very good at drawing. But anyways.

MP3: Neutral Milk Hotel – “Holland 1945”

Paste is streaming the Stephin Merritt rarities collection Obscurities a week before its August 23 release. This release marks the return of Merritt to Merge Records and the next Magnetic Fields record will be out on the same label next year.

MP3: Stephin Merritt – “Forever And A Day”
Stream: Stephin Merritt / Obscurities

DIY has a feature interview with Stephen Malkmus on the occasion of the release of Mirror Traffic next week. The album is up to stream in its entirety over at NPR; Malkmus and The Jicks play The Phoenix on September 23.

MP3: Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks – “Tigers”
MP3: Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks – “Senator”
Stream: Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks / Mirror Traffic

Tuscaloosa News and Birmingham Box talk to Justin Townes Earle, in town at The Horseshoe on August 26.

KDHX talks to Laruen Larson of Ume; their new record Phantoms is out August 30.

Spin has posted online their cover story on St. Vincent for next month’s “Style Issue” – and if you think that means lots of snazzy pictures of Annie Clark to go with the interview, you’d be right. Her new record Strange Mercy arrives September 13.

Wilco have released a video teaser for the song “Almost” off their new album The Whole Love, which shows if nothing else that this album proves they’ve found the “Beautifully ugly” setting on Nels Cline. The album is out September 27 and they play Massey Hall on September 16 and 17.

Rolling Stone talks to Matthew Sweet about his new album Modern Art, due out September 27.

MP3: Matthew Sweet – “She Walks The Night”

Making good on his promise in July to return when the new record was out, Eric Bachmann will bring Crooked Fingers back to town for a show at the Drake Underground on November 8 in support of Breaks In The Armor, out October 11. Merge has the full tour itinerary, for which Strand Of Oaks will be supporting.

MP3: Crooked Fingers – “Phony Revolutions”
MP3: Strand Of Oaks – “Bonfire”

Portland’s Blind Pilot will follow up the September 13 release of We Are The Tide with a tour that brings them to Lee’s Palace on November 10, tickets $15.50 in advance.

MP3: Blind Pilot – “Keep You Right”

Warpaint dish to NME about their plans for album number two.

NPR has got a World Cafe session with TV On The Radio.

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

Rumour Has It

Adele at The Masonic Temple in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangAdele has been a big deal for a while, her 2008 debut 19 having picked up all kinds of accolades and awards. And that’s kind of a shame because with that level of acclaim as a floor, it’s difficult to express just how much better the follow-up 21 is. I appreciated the debut as a showcase for Ms Adkin’s talents as a singer and songwriter, but the follow up bests it in pretty much every way.

Her voice is still as formidable a presence as ever, with so much inherent strength and character that the acrobatics and oversinging that those who would aspire to be her peers inevitably resort to are wholly unnecessary. But 21‘s songs themselves are more sophisticated, melodic and dynamic and so effortlessly cross genres like soul, gospel, folk, pop and even a couple commendable forays into rock that they make the idea of genres kind of pointless. Whereas on 19 some of the songs were there to serve the voice, on 21 everything is in service to the songs. In other words, it’s a hell of a record.

And in support of it, Adele was in town last night for a taping of MTV Live which included an intimate mini-concert at the Masonic Temple. Having not seen her perform before – I think her Toronto appearances took her directly from The Rivoli to Massey Hall – I felt fortunate that I was invited to attend this show. Following a sort-of late-night talk show format segment that wasn’t as terrible as a feared and certainly featured more on-camera raunch and swearing than I’d expected, Adele came out delivered a set that was brief but also would have convinced anyone that she was the real deal.

Backed by a full six-piece band, she opened with “Rolling In The Deep” and then stripped (and sat) down with just a pianist and cup of tea for the ballady portion of the show, delivering “Someone Like You”, “Turning Tables” and 19 Dylan cover “Feel My Love” with astonishing presence despite not having much in the way of stage moves. Between songs, she took the time to banter and joke with the adoring audience – there was certainly no sign of the stage fright that she’s said to suffer from – and after inviting her band back, closed with “Chasing Pavements”. A short but completely stirring set that proved that having the lungs and the voice is only meaningful if they’re connected directly to the heart.

Adele plays a sold-out show at The Kool Haus on May 18. The Daily Record has an interview.

Video: Adele – “Rolling In The Deep”
Video: Adele – “Make You Feel My Love”
Video: Adele – “Chasing Pavements”
Video: Adele – “Cold Shoulder”

Spinner, BBC and The Guardian talk to Noah & The Whale, whose new record Last Night On Earth is available to stream at NME in advance of its March 15 release date. If their goal with this record was to no longer be lumped in with the English anti-folk movement… well I think they’ve done it. Noah & The Whale and their synths will be at The Mod Club on March 24.

Stream: Noah & The Whale / Last Night On Earth

The “director’s cut” for one of Mumford & Sons’ videos from Sigh No More is now online, though curiously it’s about 9 seconds shorter than the official version.

Video: Mumford & Sons – “Winter Winds” (director’s cut)
Video: Mumford & Sons – “Winter Winds”

Spinner talks to Esben & The Witch, in town at Wrongbar next Friday night for Canadian Musicfest.

Vanity Fair and University Observer Q&A Anna Calvi, who was also supposed to be on that Wrongbar CMF bill but who has cancelled all dates prior to that one and the one after due to an arm/hand injury. So while I await the official word, it’s safe to say that the Toronto show is off as well.

The Quietus interviews Liam Gallagher of Beady Eye.

Drowned In Sound meets Gruff Rhys, who follows up the May 3 release of Hotel Shampoo with a date at The Horseshoe on June 11.

Ladytron have released a video for one of the new tracks that will appear on the Best of Ladytron: 00-10 compilation, due out March 29.

Video: Ladytron – “Age Of Hz”

Digital Spy talks to Patrick Wolf about his forthcoming new record Lupercalia, out May 31, while Spinner grabs an interview video-style.

A new Loney Dear video has surfaced. Let’s hope this means the new full-length Hall Music isn’t far behind.

Video: Loney Dear – “Young Hearts”

The Line Of Best Fit, Pitchfork, Blurt and Exclaim all have interviews with Lykke Li about her spanking new record Wounded Rhymes. She is at The Phoenix on May 22.

The Line Of Best Fit points out a new video from The Concretes and a complete live show from Paris available to stream at Grand Crew.

Video: The Concretes – “Crack In The Paint”

Blurt reports that the third salvo of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds reissues will arrive on May 17 and cover his ’90s output with bonus-loaded editions of Let Love In, Murder Ballads, The Boatman’s Call and No More Shall We Part.

R.E.M.’s new record Collapse Into Now is available to stream all over the place leading up to its release next week. Check it out at Exclaim

Stream: R.E.M. / Collapse Into Now

And here are some of the new(ish) concert announcements for this week; Joe Pug and Strand Of Oaks have a date at The Horseshoe on April 20, tickets $10.

MP3: Strand Of Oaks – “Bonfire”

Joan As Police Woman, whom I don’t think has been to Toronto in the past four years if ever – a Summer 2007 show was cancelled – will be at The Drake on April 21 as part of a tour in support of her new record The Deep Field, which comes out on April 11, tickets $12. After Ellen has a feature.

MP3: Joan As Police Woman – “The Magic”
MP3: Joan As Police Woman – “To Be Loved”

Guitar Wolf have a date at Lee’s Palace for May 17, extending their previously-announced North American tour, tickets $18.50. They released Uchusenkan Love last Fall.

MP3: Guitar Wolf – “After School Thunder”

Anti reports that Man Man are almost done work on their new record and are setting out on tour, presumably to promote. They’re in Toronto on May 26 at Lee’s Palace, tickets $17.50.

MP3: Man Man – “Top Drawer”

Sondre Lerche gives New York Magazine the scoop on his new self-titled record, due out June 7. He’ll be playing songs from it – presumably – when he hits The Mod Club on May 31, tickets $18.50.

Here’s a tour filled with more win than Charlie Sheen – Okkervil River, Titus Andronicus and Future Islands stopping in at The Phoenix on June 10, tickets $18.50 in advance. Okkervil will release their new record I Am Very Far on May 10, Titus are still working last year’s glorious The Monitor (and will still be at The Horseshoe for their own headlining show April 1) and Future Islands released In Evening Air last year.

MP3: Okkervil River – “Wake And Be Fine” (live on Jimmy Fallon)
MP3: Titus Andronicus – “A More Perfect Union”
MP3: Future Islands – “Tin Man”

That same night but costing $18.50 less than the Okkervil show – that’s free, if you don’t feel like doing the math – is The Joel Plaskett Emergency performing at Metro Hall as part of this year’s Luminato arts festival. Their set time is 9:20PM.

MP3: The Joel Plaskett Emergency – “Deny Deny Deny”

And finally, some fellow with Britpop love in his heart and too much time on his hands has begun digitizing archives of Select Magazine. I bought so many mediocre records based on their boundless enthusiasm, but also some awesome ones. Ah, nostalgia.

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

Yesterday's World

Elephant 6 collective to tour North America yelling, “surprise!”

Photo via Ground ControlGround ControlSo maybe some of you heard that Jeff Mangum, that guy who used to be in that one band, played a surprise show of Neutral Milk Hotel tunes to a Brooklyn crowd of about 75 this past weekend (MP3s or it didn’t happen). And while that’s a pretty cool thing in and of itself, not to mention giving those in attendance bragging rights in certain circles for the rest of their lives, that it happened just before word that the Elephant 6 collective of which the Neutral Milk was a founding member was planning a big Spring touring to-do was… interesting. Not implying anything untoward, simply observing that if it was a coincidence, it was a well-timed one.

Said to-do is the Elephant 6 Holiday Surprise Tour, which was first rolled out at about this time of the year in 2008 by former Neutral Milk Hotelier, current Music Tapes leader and all-around Christmas fan Julian Koster. It consisted of a massive and random group of Elephant 6 alumni past and present, including members of Apples In Stereo, Elf Power, Circulatory System, Olivia Tremor Control amongst others – which is to say about 1/10 the population of Athens, Georgia – who trekked about performing holiday songs and each others’ compositions and generally celebrating the spirit of pop, psychedelia and community that informed the movement back in their heyday of the mid-’90s. And apparently they had such a good time of it, they’re doing it again.

The details on the who and the what are unclear as of yet – Koster will certainly be driving it again, covering much of the same terrain as his ongoing Lullabye Tour – but the itinerary is up, showing dates across North America running from late February through the end of March. You know, exactly when there aren’t any real holidays. Unlike the original Holiday Tour, this one includes a Toronto stop on March 18 at the Horseshoe, which is great for those of us who will be hundreds of miles away at SxSW at the time (that’s not a plea for sympathy, just statement of fact), particularly since none of Elf Power, Circulatory System or the reunited Olivia Tremor Control have come up this way in forever. But it is what it is and what it should be is an excitingly unpredictable treat for fans and you can bet no one is forgetting that Mangum made appearances at some of those shows in 2008… Will he be along this time out? Maybe he just needs to get re-accustomed to playing live OH WAIT.

The AV Club talked to Koster about the tour back in the Fall of 2008 while NPR has audio from the Chicago stop of that tour – all two and a half hours of it.

MP3: Music Tapes – “Majesty”
MP3: Neutral Milk Hotel – “Holland 1945”
MP3: The Apples In Stereo – “Benefits Of Lying With Your Friend”
MP3: Elf Power – “Stranger In The Window”
MP3: Circulatory System – “Yesterday’s World”
MP3: Circulatory System – “Now”

It’s understandable if you thought that The Wooden Sky’s show at Lee’s back at the start of November was their last local hurrah for the year, but they’ve got one more engagement on the calendar – an intimate December 19 show at the Music Gallery with Philadelphia’s Strand Of Oaks. It’s an all-ages gig, tickets $25 and all proceeds going to the Daily Bread Food Bank.

MP3: The Wooden Sky – “Something Hiding For Us In The Night”
MP3: Strand Of Oaks – “Bonfire”

The double-bill of one-man act Wild Nothing and many-man band Abe Vigoda have made a date at Wrongbar on February 17, full dates of the tour available at Pitchfork.

MP3: Wild Nothing – “Golden Haze”
MP3: Abe Vigoda – “Throwing Shade”

Akron/Family will follow up the February 8 release of S/T II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT with a date at The Horseshoe on February 20. And if you haven’t read the background on the record, Consequence Of Sound has details… which sound mental.

MP3: Akron/Family – “River”

The Low Anthem, who are readying their Smart Flesh for a February 22 release, have made a date at The Great Hall for March 2 – tickets $17.50 in advance. You can grab the first MP3 from said record in exchange for your email at their website.

Clash talks to LCD Soundsystem main man James Murphy.

Drowned In Sound interviews Britt Daniel and Eric Harvey of Spoon.

Exclaim has details on the long-awaited second Rural Alberta Advantage record. Departing will be out on March 1 and you can expect to hear at least some of it at their sold-out Lee’s Palace show next Thursday, December 16.

Daytrotter’s recent sojourn to Pop Montreal has yielded sessions with Karkwa and also with Diamond Rings. Karkwa are at Lee’s Palace on March 5.

Monday has a feature on Dan Mangan.

The Guardian, Winnipeg Free Press and Pitchfork talk to Feist about her Look At What The Light Did Now documentary, out today on DVD.